President Hassan Rouhani in two separate decrees on Tuesday, appointed Masoumeh Ebtekar as the head of the Environment Department and Ali Shamkhani as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.
Ebtekar will replace Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh who served in the post during former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure.
She held the same post in Iran’s 7th and 8th governments under President Khatami (from 1997-2005) and was the first female vice president of Iran.
Ebtekar has served as faculty member at Tarbiat Modarres University, which is a post-graduate academic center located in Tehran. As an associate professor in immunology, she has taught, supervised and advised PhD and MSc students. Ebtekar currently teaches cytokines, viral immunology, HIV vaccines, aging, immunology of the nervous system and psychoneuroimmunology. She has currently filed 41 ISI scientific articles in the field of immunology in her name.
Meanwhile, Shamkhani will replace Saeed Jalili as new SNSC secretary.
Shamkhani served as the commander of naval forces of the Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Army.
He held the defense portfolio from August 1997 to August 2005 in the cabinet of President Mohammad Khatami.
When former president Ahmadinejad ascended power in 2005, Shamkhani was replaced by Mostafa Mohammad Najjar in the post. In the 2001 presidential election, Shamkhani ran for office.
He is the director of the Iranian Armed Forces’ Center for Strategic Studies and a military advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The SNSC is, of course, not longer in charge of the talks with world powers over Iran’s nuclear program after President Rouhani in a decree last week shifted the leading role in the talks with the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) to the Foreign Ministry.
Al-Qaeda Behind Abduction Of Diplomat in Yemen
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi underlined that Sana’a will do its best to pursue the fate and release of the Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen late in July, saying evidences indicate that Al-Qaeda terrorists have abducted Nour-Ahmad Nikbakht.
“All proofs and evidence show that the abducted diplomat is in the hands of Al-Qaeda elements,” Al-Qirbi told Fars News Agency in Sana’a on Tuesday.
“We will continue our efforts to release him and with the help of God he will be freed without being hurt,” the Yemeni foreign minister said.
Early in August, a Yemeni security officer said that Al-Qaeda militants are suspected of having abducted the Iranian diplomat.
“There are suspicions that Al-Qaeda is behind the kidnapping,” AFP quoted a Yemeni security officer as saying.
Unknown assailants abducted the Iranian embassy staff member in Safr Street in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in late July.
Iranian charge d’affairés in Sana’a, Morteza Abedi said that Nikbakht worked in the administrative section of the Iranian embassy in Sana’a.
Later, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Yemeni officials have pledged to do their best to free the Iranian diplomat.
Amir Abdollahian said that the Yemeni officials have given assurances that the abducted Iranian diplomat will be freed, and added that certain clues have been found about the Iranian diplomat’s abduction thus far. “We hope that the efforts yield result as soon as possible, and we witness the freedom of the administrative staff member of our embassy in Sana’a,” Amir Abdollahian said while pointing to the dispatch of a delegation to Yemen to investigate the fate of Nikbakht.
Ambassador: Japan Seeking Stronger Ties With Tehran
Iran’s Ambassador in Tokyo Reza Nazar Ahari said Japan is seeking to strengthen ties with Iran.
Talking to IRNA on Tuesday, he said the visit to Tehran of the special envoy of the Japanese premier indicates Tokyo’s willingness to bolster relations with Tehran.
He noted that envoy carried a written message from the Japanese prime minister to the Iranian president.
Referring to the existing amicable relations between the two countries, he said the visit which entailed meetings with a number of ranking Iranian officials would open a new chapter in bilateral ties.
The ambassador further expressed hope that ties between the two nations would not be affected by unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran.
Masahiko Komura, the special envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Iran was in Tehran for talks with Iranian senior officials.
He submitted a message from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to President Rouhani.
Prior to his visit to Iran, the Japanese official told local media that he would urge Iran, as an influential country, to play a role in resolving the deadly conflict gripping Syria.
Iran Welcomes Russia Proposal on Syria
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The Iranian official also expressed concern over the possession of chemical weapons by the terrorist groups in Syria and said, “Any initiative [regarding chemical weapons] must also include the [entire] spectrum of terrorists.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that ‘ample intelligence’ indicates that Takfiri and extremist groups in Syria are in possession of chemical arms.
A UN investigator also said in May there was strong evidence that the militants had used sarin gas in an earlier chemical attack in Syria. An independent Russian inquiry also arrived at a similar conclusion.
Pointing to contacts with officials of numerous countries on the Syrian crisis by Foreign Minister Zarif, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman emphasized that the Islamic Republic has made the prevention of war its priority and has declared its clear position on the issue.
“We oppose violence, terrorism and extremism and believe any militarism in the region will make the situation uncontrollable,” she reiterated.
Referring to the existing concerns over the breakout of a war, Afkham added, “The concern of the Islamic Republic is not merely for a single country, but it is for the entire region.”
She emphasized that all countries in the region ‘have a responsibility to prevent militarism, the occurrence of war and the further complication of conditions’.
The official slammed the US for trying to turn its red line, ‘which stems from domestic pressures’, into a red line for the international community.
She also described cooperation between Iran and Syria as ‘good and constructive and based on mutual interests’.
FM, Ashton to Meet in NY
The spokesman said Zarif is to meet the European Union foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
She added that the meeting should not be considered as Iran’s talks with the P5+1.
“Zarif-Ashton meeting will take place to make preparations for the next round of Iran-P5+1 talks.”
As for Iran’s next nuclear negotiating team, Afkham said the next head and members of the negotiating team will be chosen through a special mechanism.
She added that information about the new negotiating team will be made public in due course.
Last week, President Hassan Rouhani assigned the Foreign Ministry as the body in charge of nuclear talks.
The Iranian foreign minister on Friday confirmed his telephone conversation with Ashton, and said, “We agreed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting” to follow up on Iran’s nuclear issue.
Later on Thursday, Michael Mann, Ashton’s spokesman, announced the readiness of the P5+1 to resume a fresh round of talks with Iran.
“We are in touch with the Iranian side,” Mann said on Thursday, adding, “We stand ready to resume negotiations as soon as possible.”
Iran and the world powers have held several rounds of talks on Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The two sides wrapped up their last round of negotiations on April 6 in the Kazakh city of Almaty. An earlier meeting was also held in the city on February 26-27.
The US, Israel and some of their allies claim that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program, with Washington and the European Union using the unfounded allegation as a pretext to impose sanctions on Iran.
Tehran strongly rejects the groundless claim over its nuclear activities, maintaining that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
High-Level Talks in Shanghai
Afkham said here on Tuesday that Iran is to hold high level meetings and talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting.
She said President Rouhani is to travel to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, on September 12 to take part in the SCO meeting.
She pointed to the especial importance of the meeting for Iran as a regional body and said the government uses every chance to promote its general policy of regional cooperation.
As to the situation of the kidnapped Iranian diplomat in Sana, Yemen, she said following the incident the Foreign Ministry took necessary measures to follow up the case. An Iranian delegation visited the country and proposed formation of a joint committee by the two countries to carry out more specific cooperation, she noted.
Asked to comment on remarks by the Iranian foreign minister regarding exchange of messages between Iran and the US, she said what Zarif said suggested that some sort of exchange of concepts took place between the two countries.
He did not mention anything about exchange of messages between Tehran and Washington, Ms Afkham reiterated.
Asked whether the Omani Sultan carried any message from Washington on his recent visit to Tehran, she dismissed such claims as just media speculations.
Envoy: Attack on Syria Will Ignite War in Mideast
Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Mohsen Naziri Asl has warned that military action in Syria will spark a ‘deeper crisis’ and stir a ‘regional war’.
“Military action risks igniting a regional war,” the ambassador told the Geneva-based council on Monday, Press TV reported.
“The only way out of this situation is immediate negotiation end the conflict,” he added.
The envoy made the comments after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday warned about the ramifications of a military action in Syria.
“This appalling situation cries out for international action, yet a military response or the continued supply of arms risk igniting a regional conflagration, possibly resulting in many more deaths and even more widespread misery,” she said.
Multi-Sided War in Region
Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan also warned the advocates of war on Syria against its unpredictable consequences, saying such a war will engage numerous countries and lead to a regional war.
“The Syrian government and Bashar Assad will not stand still to allow others to topple their political system or bomb their people without any reaction,” Dehqan said in a televised interview with Iran’s state-run channel one TV on Monday night.
“Certainly, this reaction will be shown on the basis of the decision made by the Syrian political leaders and will cause a new round of reciprocal attacks in the region and it will possibly entangle others with battle and put them in battlefield,” he added.
Dehqan advised the Americans to think about the consequences and results of invading Syria and do a cost-and-benefit before embarking on an attack on the Middle-Eastern country.
“I believe that the US intervention with any quality will lead to the spread of the crisis, creation of a security vacuum and make the Americans get stuck in the region just as in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he added.
The United States has been seeking to win international support for a war against Syria after foreign-backed opposition forces accused the government of President Assad of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21.
Damascus has denied the accusation, saying the attack was carried out by militants themselves as a false-flag operation.
Obama has said that Washington must take military action against the Syrian government, which would mean a unilateral military strike without a UN mandate.
Speaking to CBS Television on Monday, President Assad warned of massive retaliation if the United States launches a military strike against Syria, saying Washington should ‘expect everything’ if US forces attack his country.
The US Senate will vote on authorizing military intervention in Syria later this week.
The White House has admitted it has no ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, but said a ‘strong common-sense test irrespective of the intelligence’ suggested the Syrian army was responsible for the August poison gas attack.
Iran’s Military Power a Deterrent
MP Hojjatollah Souri underlined Iran’s military advancements and superiority in the region, and said the country’s military power has acted as a deterrent to US attack on Syria.